The long wait of 14 years : Will Seenu ever return? | Sunday Observer

The long wait of 14 years : Will Seenu ever return?

 Seenu with his parents Sivalingam and Jayanthini
Seenu with his parents Sivalingam and Jayanthini

While millions of people in the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean countries mourned their dead last Wednesday, the 14th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, V.Sivalingam of Pandiruppu, Kalmunai in the Eastern province and his family also joined them but with the looming uncertainty on whether or not his son Krishanth alias Seenu lost in the tsunami waves on December 26, 2004, is alive or not.

Sivalingam has been repeatedly visiting hospitals where his son was said to have been admitted after the catastrophe, the neighbouring areas and relatives, friends, astrologistsand soothsayers to make sure that his lost son was found alive after the tsunami. According to information he has gathered, he strongly believes that his son is living in the areas surrounding the Ampara hospital, including Weeragoda where there is a Buddhist monastery, and other ‘secret places’ where children separated from their families are being adopted.

Lost overnight


The 11-year-old Seenu

People ravaged by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami who had lost, overnight, their loved ones and properties, rendered homeless and deprived of their livelihood commemorated and mourned the lives snatched away from their midst for the 14th successive year last Wednesday, December 26. In Sri Lanka, about 35,000 had died while 18,000 died in India and about 8,000 in Thailand. The death toll in the countries affected – India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Burma (Myanmar), Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles – was over 230,000.

The tragic truth is that the remains of thousands of the victims killed in the worst historic catastrophe were not found by either their families or dear and near ones. The agony of not having found the bodies and not having performed the final rites continues to torment the families. They pray, mourn, wail and pay floral tributes at sites they believe the bodies got buried.

But there are also the heart-rending stories of hundreds of other unfortunate families whose members got scattered with one or more members still unable to relocate and rejoin their families due to unforeseen circumstances. Fourteen years on, the separated members believe and have reliable or hearsay information that the separated members of their families are still alive but in unknown or inaccessible locations.

When the tsunami giant waves hit the Pandiruppu village V. Sivalingam, the head of the family was away in Saudi Arabia. His wife Jayanthini, 11-year-old son Krishanth alias Seenu, and nine-year-old daughter were in their modest home in the village. Feeling hungry Jayanthini sent Seenu to a boutique in the next street to buy biscuits.

It was then that the tsunami struck and walls of sea water rolled inland. People ran to safety, or so they thought, shouting “the sea is coming” and Seenu ran with the crowds in one direction while Jayanthini and her daughter ran in another. Many people were killed and many houses and buildings devastated but Jayanthini and her daughter and a large number of villagers survived. They were in refugee centres when Sivalingam returned from Saudi Arabia to join them two days later.

Stampede

According to information Sivalingam gathered, Seenu who ran with the crowd fell down in the stampede sustaining minor injuries to his head and limbs. He was seen by people standing inside the Kalmunai base hospital and later being transported along with many others, in hospitals convoys, to Ampara hospital. Sivalingam says that when he visited the Ampara hospital he found, according to hospital registers, that his son was admitted to Ward No.27. However, on later visits, to his utter dismay he found that the name in the entries had been changed.

The tsunami victims were also sent to government hospitals in Badulla, Inginiyagala and Gonagala, Sivalingam visited those hospitals as well to find if any information was forthcoming as regards his missing son.

His son should be a young man of 25 today and he has disappeared into the thin air although many people and astrologists say that he is alive and will join the family soon.

Majeed, a person known to Sivalingam, had said that he bought refreshments for Seenu when he was warded at the Ampara hospital. In response to an advertisement in newspapers, someone had written to Sivalingam saying that many children were sent to other hospitals due to overcrowding in the Kalmunai hospital and the medical authorities should know where Seenu was sent, Sivalingam says, adding that it is also possible that some vile people or a childless couple had taken away his son. It is a long wait but the family is still waiting in the hope that Seenu would return. 

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